Footage In The Fast Lane?

From a storage perspective, editors (or at least this editor) are always asking for more space and more speed. G-Technology has delivered a product that answers both of those requests: The G-Speed Shuttle SSD.

I saw a unit at NAB and have been waiting to give one a test run. Recently, G-Technology sent me an 8 TB unit to try out. I was able to put it through its paces both on a Mac and a Windows machine.

First off, the build.

The array is housed in a rugged and transportable housing. A large handle on the top makes it easy to move and the fact that it uses SSDs avoids many of the issues with transporting hard drives. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

There are four removable trays that each house two SSDs. With eight total drives and RAID control built into the hardware, you can run the G-Speed Shuttle SSD in various RAID configurations. RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and 50 provide you with performance focusing on either redundancy or speed. (Although speed is still high, even in redundant configurations.)

Since the RAID is controlled via the built-in hardware, it’s not workstation dependent. The unit comes formatted for Mac but is easily formatted for Windows. The interface is Thunderbolt™ 3 and a 40 Gbps Thunderbolt cable is included. Note that this isn’t a combo Thunderbolt 3 USB-C connection, it’s only Thunderbolt 3.

Secondly, setting up the unit.

After unboxing, near the two Thunderbolt connectors, you notice a label advising you to download the driver/software before connecting the unit to your computer. After a visit to the G-Technology website and a quick download, I was able to get the software installed on both my Mac and Windows machine. I connected the Thunderbolt cable to my Mac and was soon up and running.

Third, performance.

I did the usual speed tests and was getting over 2200 MB/sec. Yup, 2200 MB/sec. But watching speed tests isn’t that interesting, so I loaded up the array with various projects, including UHD at 59.94 fps, 4k multicam and some beyond 4k. An afternoon of editing soon had me forgetting that I was working with high-resolution footage and not proxies. The speed is there.

Fourth, day-to-day operations.

As someone who has used storage that’s as simple as a USB drive and as complicated as a fiber channel array of spinning disks running a RAID 6, I was surprised and pleased at how deep the user interface gets into operating and maintaining the array. I really shouldn’t be surprised as I’ve used some of G-Technology’s legacy G-Speed 16-drive arrays.

The dashboard on the array software shows the current status of the array and a log of past events.

It’s not a complicated device to use. Far from it. As I mentioned before, once you download the driver software and connect the unit to your computer, you’re good to go. If you connect to a Windows machine, you just need to reformat the drive.

On the flip side, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty and see what’s going on as far as temperature, voltage, fan speed, etc., it’s all there for you to dive into. You can even have the drive monitor itself and send you warnings in case there are any problems.

The G-Speed Shuttle SSD has a fan speed sensor and multiple temperature sensors to ensure top performance of the array.

If you want to change the array settings – maybe you want more space and less redundancy – the software has a wizard with various tech levels. You can either let the device tell you what it thinks you want or totally geek out with stripe size or write policy. But if you don’t know what those are, the automatic or express level wizard takes care of that for you.

A multi-level wizard helps with any special configurations.

Lastly (another word for conclusion).

After running for a couple of days with the G-Speed Shuttle SSD, here are my honest thoughts. It’s what I have been asking for: more space and more speed.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t get much enjoyment from watching speed tests, but when you edit multi-cam 4k or 60p, you can feel how fast your drive is whenever you scrub through footage. It might seem like a small thing, but I liken it to walking in sand. Not a problem if you go a short distance, but if you do it all day, it gets tiring. A tired editor doesn’t make good decisions.

To make use of the maximum speed, you need a Thunderbolt 3 port that supports 4 lanes of data (not 2) and isn’t shared with other ports. Use a true Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) cable—there are some TB3 cables that only support 20 Gbps. (That’s a discussion for another time.) But the unit comes with the proper cable.

Although I don’t usually transport my drives, the build gives me confidence in the reliability of the system. It could be an interesting option for location work. There is a fan, so it’s not silent, but most of the sound comes out the rear of the device. I’ve had thunderbolt I/O devices that make a lot more noise.

I was originally going to title this post “G-Speed Shuttle SSD: be careful what you wish for.” But I thought it might sound too negative. Why the warning?

Now I have to ship the unit back to G-Technology and put a G-Speed Shuttle SSD in my budget.